TRANSMITTED: Monday 28 December 1981
WRITER: Terence Dudley
DIRECTOR: John Black
SCRIPT EDITOR: Antony Root & Eric Saward
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 8.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: K9 Tales Box Set (Invisible Enemy/K9 and Company)
Sarah Jane Smith goes to stay with her Aunt Lavinia for Christmas but discovers her aunt has vanished, supposedly on a lecture trip to America. Her Aunt's ward Brendan arrives unexpectedly early and together they open a box left for Sarah which contain K-9 Mark III, a gift from the Doctor. Becoming concerned when they are unable to contact Lavinia they investigate, gaining the attention of the local cult who kidnap Brendan. Sarah & K-9 deduce where the cult is meeting and rescue Brendan, preventing him from becoming a human sacrifice. Lavinia contacts Sarah from the States to let her know that she's alright.
When it was announced that K-9 would be leaving Doctor Who there was a huge outcry in the press which led to this pilot project for K-9 being written by Terence Dudley who had directed Meglos and, by this point, written Four To Doomsday, the Fifth Doctor's second broadcast story, but the first recorded. The director was John Black, who had successfully helmed Keep of Traken. Returning as Sarah Jane Smith was Elizabeth Sladen who'd played the role for 3 and a bit years in the mid seventies, while K-9 was once again voiced by John Leeson. Doctor Who's producer John Nathan-Turner is in overall charge and the script is edited by Antony Root & Eric Saward, the two men who between them script edited season 19 of Doctor Who. In short this is as close to being Doctor Who as it's possible to be without actually being Doctor Who so very much deserves.
Ratings were good but I'm afraid the program itself isn't. From the moment you see *THAT TITLE SEQUENCE* (watch it here if you dare) it's all going wrong. The music for the title was composed by Doctor Who's unofficial "continuity advisor" Ian Levine, a man with considerable experience in the music industry, and his song writing partner Fiachra Trench. The characters in the show, Sarah Jane excluded, are uniformly awful. Two of the fourth Doctor's three long standing female companions left with a K-9: Leela on Gallifrey and Romana in E-Space. Instead of using one of these the create a third K-9 and stick him in a setting, while cheap and nicely filmed in the Cotswolds, is perhaps not what the audience was expecting and definitely isn't the best for running K-9 over when flat futuristic spaceship corridors may have been more suitable for him.
A couple of the guest cast are known to us: Colin Jeavons was Damon in The Underwater Menace while Bill Fraser played General Grugger in K-9 on the condition he could kick K-9. He doesn't seem to repeat the performance here.
K-9 & Company didn't too bad: 8.4 million viewers on BBC2 3 days after Christmas. However a change in management at the BBC led to it not being commissioned as a series. It was repeated the following year on Christmas Eve and novelised in 1987 by the script's author. It was released on video on 7th August 1995 and on DVD, as part of Doctor Who: K9 Tales Box Set with the Invisible Enemy.
Seven days after this episode was shown the fifth Doctor made his debut.